What’s the biggest challenge facing players?

In this insert from the latest SA Rugby magazine, we debate what will be the greatest challenge for players upon their return to action?

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CRAIG LEWIS says their physical preparation

These are extraordinary times. When Vodacom Super Rugby was shut down as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic, there was talk from the Sanzaar partners about looking at a domestic restructuring of the competition to at least allow for some sort of rugby to take place between local teams.

However, any hopes for such plans were quickly scuppered as the outbreak escalated and countries were placed into lockdown. As players were restricted to their homes, several players took to social media to demonstrate the innovative ways to keep active.

Stormers utility back Dillyn Leyds posted a video showing him using a pot plant as a weight, while Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant put a suitcase over his shoulders as he completed his lunges. Some of it was in jest, but it also provided a clear indication of just how players’ training routines would be compromised as a result of being home-bound.

Of course, self-isolation was all for the greater good, and the main aim was to take all necessary steps to curb this frightening global pandemic.

Yet, when rugby resumes – hopefully sooner rather than later – it will undoubtedly take some time for the players to get back to their previous levels of elite fitness and conditioning.

Home gym equipment and technical analysis during the enforced period of lockdown will have kept some players busy, but once this comes to an end, some time will be required for the players to get back up to speed and go through the requisite fitness tests before any competitions resume.

JON CARDINELLI says the mental challenge

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster on 15 March, the number of positive Covid-19 cases in South Africa has risen alarmingly. What’s more, experts have predicted massive financial losses for individual clubs and alliances – such as Sanzaar – if the game doesn’t resume in some shape or form over the next couple of months.

Before the national lockdown, I asked Stormers coach John Dobson what sort of challenge this crisis will pose to the players. Time away from the game, of course, will test their mental strength, discipline and maturity.

Dobson made mention of the younger generation’s resilience and confirmed that he and the other coaches would be keeping a close eye on all individual training programmes.

These are concerning times for all citizens, whether they are professional athletes or not. During this period of isolation everyone will be expected to deal with a number of challenges outside of their daily jobs.

Fortunately the players based in South Africa will have access to their families. A number of South Africans – and other foreigners playing in the UK, Europe and Japan – will be stranded on the other side of the world during this time of crisis.

Franchises and clubs will do well to manage their senior players during this period, especially those who have been cut off from their partners and young children. On the other end of the scale, the coaches will need to ensure that the younger players stay focused.